Author Archives: KDAlex

Distractions

What do you do when the garbage needs emptying, the litter box needs cleaning, and the bills need paying?

You’re two weeks overdrawn and the only thing you got going for you is a few fleeting moments of relaxation time.

For most aspiring or beginning writers, the perils of reality always like to set in and rear their ugly little heads at the most unsettling times. How do you kill the distraction demons?

After my slump, I did a whole lot of real life reorganizing. I just ended a three year committed relationship and now it was time to move on. Truth was, I forgot why I even started writing to begin with.

Sure, it’s nice to get lost in the limelight and the big dreams of winning a million dollar contract, writing the next breakout bestseller, and finally being able to quit your day job and be a real writer.

Money had never been a strong point of mine. Truth is, I can’t balance a checkbook without needing a calculator. I have a full time public service job that I most certainly didn’t take for the salary.

Did I dream of being a rich successful author? I’d be lying if I said no. I’m sure there are a lot of other people out there with similar aspirations. But, the visible minority are not the whole of the matter. For every Amanda Hocking and Stephen King, there are a million other Tobias Buckells, and Daniel Abrahams.

There was a while where I thought I was the most awesome person in the world and New York would be knocking down my door to get me to sign on the dotted line. I got so lost in the chance that I might win something, that I forgot to do anything. I would lounge around, plucking grapes off the vine and discussing with myself whether or not the Muse was planning to come over for a drink.

And then I thought about reality and the whole writing life seemed to slide off into oblivion. I let the rest of the world distract me that I forgot to make time for me. And that made me forget why I started writing when I was in 7th Grade.

It was because I liked it.

It made me happy. I told stories that I wanted to read.

It wasn’t to seek some sort of gratification or a self-fulfilling prophecy of making a million dollars. It was because I was having fun.

So? What’s the best way to kill the distraction demon? Don’t forget that you’re having fun.

If you’re finding yourself lounging around, waiting for the Muse to come visit, go out and find her. We think of writing as a passive activity: Sitting at the desk, relaxing on the couch, laying in your bed while you balance a laptop on your legs and plug away at a keyboard.

But there’s so much more to it than passively listening to yourself bang away on keys. Go out on an adventure, watch the sunset, climb a mountain, or hike a trail. Have yourself an adventure and let your mind wander. Think back to the simpler times when distractions weren’t an issue and all you could do was run and play.

Read a book. Work on something or anything else. The more you work to quiet the voice that says “you can’t”, the better chances you have of hearing the one that says “I believe in you.”

Write!

It’s Okay to Talk to Yourself.

Don’t mind the stuttering, the staring. Forget everyone that’s around you. One of the biggest complaints I hear from aspiring writers or envious onlookers is that “there’s never enough time to write.”

Truth is, there’s always time to write. Especially if you think outside the glowing metal box. I had the honor of hearing Kevin J. Anderson speak, and that’s when I learned his dirty little secret.

Kevin talks to himself. So did Upton Sinclair. In Sinclair’s prime, he was turning out 8,000 words a day, seven days a week. That was enough for him to employ two stenographers full time while he dictated his stories. The ending to the sprawling epic “Wheel of Time” was dictated to eager ears and hungry tape recorders on Jordan’s death bed.

I never believed it could work. I tried several times, and after stuttering and stopping three words in, I said to myself: “Screw it.”

After six months of beating myself up because “the words just won’t come”, I decided that this needed to end. I had the whole of Golden Hills’ first draft written, the only thing I was missing had been this one niggling scene that was beginning to drive me insane. It was supposed to be the fun scene, the epic battle where the good guys win and the bad guys get ground into bonemeal. But, why wouldn’t it come to me?

I had been so wrapped up in perfectionism and staring at the blinking black cursor that it was giving me a headache. I’d sit down with every intention to write one word, maybe two. And so I would be there and slowly start typing: “This is my awesome ending.” Backspace, this isn’t good enough. So, I’d try again: “Your head will explode from how awesome this scene is.” Delete. Still not good enough.

And so it would go for days, weeks, six months at a time. It was terrible, all I’d do was wrestle with semantics. Nothing was good enough, nothing ever was.

Frustration really started to settle in. Around this time, there were discussions going on in a message board about Kevin’s dictation methods. Other writers were debating the usefulness, the awkwardness and all that good stuff. Figured I’d give it a go, jump on the band wagon. I dusted off my Sony digital recorder. And I spoke. To myself.

Much awkwardness ensued. “The round went high and wide.” Pause. Repeat. You sound stupid, try again. And so it went for about two weeks. I’d talk to myself in the car, get a few sentences in and feel even dumber than when I began. So I’d quit and go back to my music, my audiobook, flipping off the knucklehead that just cut me off, whatever.

Weeks became months and the frustration really started to amp up. I went back to talking to Kevin about camping and hiking. I’d talk to other friends about what was and wasn’t working on the draft. I came back and decided to rewrite a whole subplot, create a bunch more scenes that were unnecessary, and delete whole chapters. All for the first draft.

Finally, I said the heck with it. I went out into the swamp with my Reader and my digital tape recorder. I stopped at the river and reread the last chapter that I had written [it was the original first draft, with a scene I had since deleted] and something happened. I don’t know what. But something happened. I got that funky lightheaded feeling that only comes from perfect mental clarity.

And then I pushed record. As I rounded the ravine, stepped in some mud, and ruined a perfectly good pair of socks, I did not push stop. Except for when the trail took me under the interstate, and then I couldn’t hear myself think. Soon as I got through the bridge, I hit record again. An hour gave me a little over 4,000 words. Words that needed to be said. It didn’t matter how terrible they were, because there was no backspace key. There was only one way to go, and that was forward.

While orating is not my preferred style (Scrivener, Chai Lattes, and New Age Music, for those who were curious), I found that it works wonders when you need to knock the cobwebs out of your head.

Prior to finishing Golden Hills, I had come off a six month slump where I just couldn’t find the time, didn’t listen to the muse, whatever. You name it, I used it as an excuse.

But there’s a saying I learned which does not bear repeating in polite company [excuses are like a certain unnamed body part every living creature has] and once I wrapped my head around that and took a walk in the woods…I found out that my excuses were nothing more than simple excuses.

Or distractions.

But that’s a matter for another post.